While we have the best intention to provide a great customer experience for our guests, we don’t always get it right and the result is a customer complaint. Accidents happen, staff can have a bad day and sometimes technology lets us down. Whatever the reason, an unhappy guest is going to complain in one of three ways:
1 At your property
This is an ideal time to handle the complaint “face-to-face” and you can close the issues down swiftly. If the client does still decide to take it to a review site like TripAdvisor, you will already have a response saying that the complaint was handled as soon as it arose.
2 Direct email
This hopefully means that they will not be adding it to a review site, and you have a good opportunity to rectify the problem before it escalates any further.
3 Online review
The client hasn’t said anything during their visit and then decided to unleash their complaint with full force.
How to handle a customer complaint
Think about the customer complaint objectively – Take a few minutes and investigate the truth in what they are saying. They might indeed have a point and by acting now, you can save yourself trouble ahead.
Do not let the complaint hang – The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to soothe the situation and get a happy ending.
Be polite at ALL times – There’s a fine line between being polite and patronising. Keep with being polite even when the client is being rude and raising their voice.
Acknowledge the issue and apologize – Yes, it’s a bitter pill to swallow in some cases, but it’s the best thing to do. And sometimes an apology is all it takes. Remember you or your staff could be at fault.
Promote a positive image of your business in your reply – It is possible to slip in the quality of your business and how this was a one-off occurrence with some well-thought-out comments.
Be honest and authentic – Most people can see through a difficult guest. So, as long as you are honest and authentic in your reply, it will shine through. And the bad review will be dismissed as over-hyped rubbish.
Offer to talk to them directly in person – This simple offer shows everyone reading it that you are the bigger person and you’re doing everything possible to address the issue. If they take you up on the offer and it ends on a good note, they might even adjust their complaint or remove it.
Customer complaint handling suggestions
If replying by email:
Use the subject line to say that you want to get in contact regarding their complaint.
Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention.
Explain that your hotel/resort/restaurant strives to give customers an experience that exceeds their expectations but unfortunately, there are times when you are slightly off target.
Go back over the complaint and clarify the issue using words such as you felt, you believe. This shows that you have listened to the guest/client/customer properly and, in many cases, that is all they want. This goes a long way to calm the situation.
Then apologize for not being up to the standard that day.
Offer to speak with them on the telephone so you can personally make sure that everything is resolved.
Sign off with a simple ‘I hope to see you again” or, if that could cause a negative reply, just say “I hope to speak to you soon”.
You could say – I hope to see you again. However, depending on the seriousness of the complaint this could cause a negative reply and start up the dialogue again.
If replying on social media or review sites:
Before you begin to respond to a customer complaint on social media or a review site, remember this:
In 2012, TripAdvisor and PhoCusWright reported a series of statistics that emphasize the importance of responding to online reviews. Most notably, the survey of 2,800 respondents showed that:
- 84% of users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review “improves my impression of the hotel.”
- 64% of users agree that an aggressive/defensive management response to a bad review “makes me less likely to book that hotel.”
While the survey was some time ago, it is doubtful if there would be much difference in the responses today.
How to Respond to a Customer Complaint in an Online Review:
You want to show that your resort, hotel or restaurant reads, seriously considers and then responds to all reviews. Make sure that you research what happened before you reply and are aware of all the details. Find out if they complained before they left your property and is there a record of any communication with your staff.
Personalize your response and thank them by name – However aggressive or personal the review, make sure you thank them for taking the time to give feedback. Remember all feedback is valuable – even the bad comments have merit. By acting graciously, you can lessen the negative effects of a bad review.
Apologize for their poor experience – Many managers believe an apology is an admission of guilt or wrongdoing – but it’s not. For whatever reason, your client’s expectations were not met so express sympathy that their experience fell short of expectation.
Act quickly – Once you have investigated, responding as quickly as possible is one way to repair the relationship with your complaining client. We recommend you reply to all negative reviews within 24 hours. This also minimizes who sees the negative review without a response from you.
Highlight any changes you have made or plan to make – This is a good opportunity to take the conversation offline to avoid further public conflict. Changes can be simply inviting the client to contact you, so you can make it right. Don’t promise any form of compensation online to avoid setting a pattern.
Evaluate the need for follow up procedures – If you have their contact details, you can send the client a personal email to apologize. However, make sure you have all the facts about the review if you want to offer compensation:
- Did this guest experience a systemic problem that each customer could face?
- Is there an easy fix to the problem?
- Is the problem unfounded or not likely to be repeated?
- Or is the problem linked to something you cannot easily change, like infrastructure or design?
What if they are still not happy with your response? If your client is unhappy, your next objective is damage control. You need to show any future customers who see the review that you’ve done everything possible to resolve the issue. Sometimes there is only so much you can do.
If you need assistance in handling your reviews then check our Supplier Network and find a reputation management company who can assist.